What is America Coming To?

We had a discussion of politics — Trump/Hillary — with some friends. Very uncomfortable.  I do not like politics or discussion of it since I am always right on such things (to understand this comment see July 6, 2014).  Some swear by Hillary despite her lying and corruption.  Some said Trump irrespective of his arrogance and stupid comments.

On reflection, given the choices — I would vote for neither. I would probably write in the name of someone who has honesty, integrity and ability.  Like my dog Daisy.  Or some Eagle Scout pal.  Seriously folks — what is America coming to — where our prospective choices are a clown and someone who belongs in prison?  Oh yes – and then there’s the socialist who would turn America into France or Venezuela or North Korea.   What are people thinking?   What do these choices say about our electorate?  What would our parents/grandparents say about the parade of horrors now in contention for the biggest job in the world?    

What ever happened to the likes of Everett Dirksen, Tip O’Neill, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower or the constellation of Founding Fathers who planted the seeds for our nation?  If they were around, I’m sure Hillary would lie about them.  Trump would ridicule them.  And Sanders would condemn them.        


Sticks and Stones. . . .

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.    Although ships are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a small rudder . . . . .   Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . animals have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:3-6

I must confess that there are times – especially when discussing politics – that I really want to be honest.  But I usually don’t take the bait.  Because some people will just not listen to reason.  Or logic.  And furthermore, words – once said – cannot be retrieved.  As Omar Khayyam observes:  “The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on.  Nor all your piety nor wit can call back half a line.  Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”

My father always advised “think before you speak.”   His words were as Biblical as they were prophetic.  I may not always succeed but I do try and keep a hand on the tiller of my tongue.  Usually I succeed.  But if I don’t, Katy bar the door.  Just wait ’til my next post. . . . .   



Put Your Head on my Shoulder

The first time I ever danced with a girl was in my 6th grade classroom. The teacher put on some music and drafted Marilyn W. to dance with me.  Poor girl.  To say I had two left feet would be a high compliment.  They felt like two left flippers.  I was scared to death. And I remember stepping on this poor girl’s feet in my pathetic effort to “dance.” I’m sure the experience soured poor Marilyn on the male of the species.

Fast forward to 7th grade. I had danced perhaps three or four times. I was an old hand.  7th and 8th graders were invited to “Rec” as it was called on Friday nights (“Wreck” I thought was a better name).  It was a dance. . . .  Few of the guys I knew ever danced. They just stood on the sidelines. Joshing.  Joking. Snorting.  And acting like immature boys. That is until Sharon E. walked over to me during one “slow” dance and asked me out on the floor. My friends were stunned. They stared.  I was nearly apoplectic inside. But that was only a taste of what was to come. . . .

We went out on the dance floor and Sharon promptly pressed her head against my head. I remember immediately beginning to perspire.   Heavily.  Notwithstanding her head remained glued to mine.  Sweat dripping down the both of us.  And the music ended and she walked back to the line of girls. And I sheepishly went back to the line of boys feeling like I’d just emerged from a swimming pool.  And got glares. And snickers. And when the slow music began again, I saw her moving in my direction. Uh oh.   And we danced.  I don’t think we exchanged a single word.  Ever.  But after a few times, it wasn’t so bad. 

The Genome Project – Update

On August 9, 2011, I posted about my experience with the National Geographic Magazine Genome Project.  The project began a study of mitochondrial DNA lines. Mitochondrial DNA is a genetic component traceable through females with only one mutation every 10,000 years or so.  This has nothing to do with genealogy — only the mitochondrial derivation, succession and movement of one’s maternal (mother’s mother’s mother’s etc.) ancestors going back 30,000 years or more.

One year for Christmas, I received the National Geographic genomic kit to study my “roots.” I chose to trace the genomic origins on my mother’s side – a family that is all Swedish.  I needed to send a sample of my DNA in the self-addressed envelope.  So I vigorously attacked the inside of my cheek with a scraper for about a minute (twice – 8 hours apart) and sent the swabs to National Geographic’s laboratory.  It’s all anonymous.  I only recorded a number.  No names.  No family history.  About three months later, I got the results online. 

My mother’s ancestral line began perhaps 30,000 years ago in East Africa. We are in a subgroup called “Haplogroup K.”  This group migrated from Africa – through the Middle East – and ended up in Central Europe. One small line ended up in Sweden. Curiously more than one third of all Ashkenazi Jews (in Central Europe) are of Haplogroup K.  The Genome Project kit is now in Generation 2.0.  And it now costs $199.95.  More than 700,000 have participated in this groundbreaking study.  If you are looking for a special Christmas or holiday gift, this might be just the ticket.  Check out –  https://www.google.com/#q=genome+project+


Intelligence Testing

When I was in 6th grade, apart from being the local expert on making and detonating bombs, rockets and Molotov cocktails (see 10/10/12 and 10/15/12), I cut lawns to make a few bucks.  I also kept my eyes glued to the ground for stray pennies (see 8/1/12).  And I sold Kool Aid on the local golf course for a dime (sprinting into the weeds when the Ranger came zooming toward me in his golf cart).

Another occupation of mine involved the creation of nine different “Intelligence Tests” for classmates. I would type (from scratch – one finger at a time) ten questions on a sheet of paper and give it to a classmate in exchange for a quarter. If they could answer the questions, I gave them their quarter plus another quarter (“you win“). If they didn’t, I kept their quarter.  No one ever won. . . . .

The questions included: how many gorillas were in the U.S. in 1919 (one); what King of France tinkered with locks (Louis XVI); how many Indians served in World War I (17,313); what was the parcel post rate on packages going to Manchuria in 1924 (12 cents/pound); and so on.  I earned a lot of quarters.

The reason for my success was that I had a book. It was the book Answers to Questions by Frederic J. Haskin (Grosset & Dunlap, 1926).  The book had all of these questions — and so many more.  Do you know many of the mules sent to France in World War I were killed?  If you can answer that one, I’ll give you a quarter.   


What are the answers to the conundrum posed in my prior post?  Poverty and educational inequality.  How about if we start with not tearing down (and demonizing) middle or upper income folks as some in our government viciously promote.
How about providing education on varied levels – family dynamic; health; nutrition; learning; reading; interacting; socialization; drug or substance rehab as needed; etc.   Opportunity for everyone should be mandatory (though outcome cannot be guaranteed).   More charter schools; more vouchers; more magnet schools; more tutors and mentors; etc.   Unions are destructive to education and should be forced out of the way.  Let’s not spend more money (Chicago spends more on primary and secondary school education per capita than any other city and yet has among the worst results).    Let’s spend the money wisely.  

There is, however, a pivotal question:  how do you encourage welfare families to get on board?   How do you encourage family involvement in education which is so very crucial to a child’s learning process?  Would it be unreasonable to mandate some quid pro quo  You want welfare?   Then attend neighborhood classes.  You will be involved in your children’s education.   Learn about nutrition.  If you’re pregnant, you don’t take drugs. Or smoke.    And you get prenatal counseling.  And your children will get private tutoring. Mentoring.  Opportunity.

Is it unreasonable to have at least some expectation that in exchange for welfare, people ought receive some inspiration and education for getting off welfare.   And for stimulating their children with the opportunity that all of us want to give them.  The problem is many of our politicians insist that welfare recipients are “victims.”  And they want to keep the poor – poor – by bribing them with money to get votes.  Result – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty rates are rising.   Wouldn’t it be a higher moral objective if we strive to make these people and their children productive members of society.   Where am I going wrong here?

Miles Ahead

Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.
There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from higher socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into welfare families.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from upper income and working class families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this troublesome situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The big question is what do we do about it?